Barely three days into the new financial year, there is considerable action, including some unexpected, in the cooking gas market dominated by public sector oil companies.

Even as many households made a rush to draw the first of the nine subsidised refills they are eligible this fiscal, some others, mainly Indane consumers, who had placed orders last month found that their booking had been cancelled.

As a result, the backlog of refills that prevailed with many Indane distributors last month, and came in the way of thousands of households availing their full quota, came down.

“In March, some distributors were supplying refills in ten days from the date of booking. This meant consumers who had booked towards the end of the month could not be supplied before March 31,” an Indane agent said.

As per the government decision imposing a cap on the number of subsidised cylinders supplied to households, a consumer was eligible for five refills from mid-September to March 31.

This fiscal, they will get nine subsidised refills.

On the reasons for the cancellation, sources in Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), whose Indane brand is the market leader in Tamil Nadu, said the distributors were asked not to use the cash memos generated in March for supplies made in April.

Presumably, this was done as consumers insisted that refill supplied against last month’s bookings should form part of the 2012-13 subsidised cylinder cap.

An official said, while the distributors were asked only to cancel the cash memos, some might have cancelled the booking itself. The cancellation, he said, was also necessitated as many of the households had exhausted the quota of five cylinders and booked non-subsidised domestic cylinders (costing nearly Rs. 500 more).

Since the fresh quota came into force on April 1, their bookings had to be cancelled so that subsidised cylinders, which cost around Rs. 400 each, could be supplied.

Many households were also waiting for 2013-14 as was evident from the increase in refill bookings. An official of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited said since Monday the bookings had increased by as much as 25-30 per cent.

The distributors had ordered additional lorry loads (a load consists of a little over 300 cylinders), he said.

Sources in IOC also confirmed the bookings had gone up, but expected them to stabilise shortly. “We expect the bookings to settle in a week. Moreover, it is summer when the demand for LPG is less.”

In Chennai city, there are about 20 lakh Indane consumers. The fact that many did not utilise their full quota of five cylinders by March 31, he said, vindicated the oil companies’ assessment that household required just 7-8 cylinders in a year.

An official of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, however, said there was no unusual increase in the number of refill bookings.

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